Apparently, that is the way to get a book written.
Plant your arse in a seat and click away at the keyboard.
Just in case you don’t remember every detail of the life that I chronicle here, I’ll take a sec to remind you that I am writing a novel called The Alligator Purse. You can read chapter 1 here, if you like.
For the past three years, I have focused on non-fiction (aka this blog). And, then. Well, then I joined a writing group that encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. Now I am drinking the Kool-aid and have taken on a full-fledged novel.
That was brave, right? I know.
What was I thinking, right?
I know. Believe me, I know.
But now I am thinking, maybe some of you want the Kool-aid, too. Maybe some of you are writing a novel for the first time. Or maybe just an article or a short story – because maybe you are smarter than I am and maybe you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once – right before school gets out and the kids are home a.l.l. d.a.y.
I know, what was I thinking?
But maybe it would be fun not to write this novel all by my lonesome. I mean, sure, I will write the book with my own ideas and story ideas. But maybe, just maybe, we can skip down the yellow brick road together.
So, I will tell you what I am doing along the way and what works and what wasn’t so great.
Here are my first thoughts…
Arse in Seat Modus Operandi
The first thing I can tell you is that you must put your arse in a seat. And type. A lot. And then. A lot more.
That woman in the picture is not me – but she makes me want to highlight my hair again. Not all blond on the top like hers, but you know soft-subtle highlights.It’s summer after all…
Erghhhhh. See how easy it is for me to get distracted. Arse in Seat. Arse in Seat. Not Distracted. Arse in Seat.
Anyseat, I am starting my fourth chapter – I am at about 6,000 words. A typical novel runs about 75,000 words. Yes, I have a l.o.n.g. way to go.
My entire story is not completely plotted out, although I am pretty sure I know 5 or 6 major story events that must happen and how I would like the book to end. But the only way I am going to find out the details in between is to write them. (That, and drink more Kool-aid, possibly spiked with Vodka.)
I will continue to go to my writers group mostly because I love them dearly and they serve yummy snacks. But also because they encourage me to write. And they tell me when I am not doing a great job – in a kind, loving way – but they let me know when something isn’t working. Plus, I am accountable to them. They expect me to submit chapters on a regular basis.
We meet once a week during the day when my kids are at school. That works well for me.
Take notes here – you want to be sure to find a writers group that has most of its members submitting work on a regular basis. You want to surround yourself with serious writers, who are writing.
If you are wondering how to find a writers group – try this:
1. Meetup – this site is great for all sorts of meetups (groups of people who like doing the same thing with other people) and there are tons of writing groups listed.
2. If your town has a university – call the English Department and see if have any writing groups.
3. Try your local library. They usually coordinate book clubs and might be willing to coordinate a writing group as well.
4. Take a writing class – many writing groups come from students who took a class together.
5. Simply ask around – I am amazed out how many aspiring authors are out in the world putting pen to paper. You might be surprised at who is interested in starting a group with you.
My writing group is awesomesauce and it’s amazing that they are all writers. But that means they read a story differently than someone who is primarily a reader. Writers are more technical. They know the jargon and they will spew it out at you when necessary.
Beta readers are just people who like to read. They can tell you if your story is marketable because they will tell you if they would pass your book on to a friend when they are done with it.
The only thing you have to be careful of with beta readers is that they will tell you what they want to happen next. You have to remember that you are driving the story line. You determine the plot. They tell you if what you have already written works.
I asked my beta readers two things…
1. To promise not to share my chapters with anyone else. I told them if they know of someone who would like to be a beta reader, I would happily add her name to the distribution list. But I need to know who is getting what and when.
2. To be perfectly honest. I absolutely want to hear what works and what they like. But, more importantly, I want to hear where they get stuck – what doesn’t make sense. I want to know what piques their interest and makes them want to read more. And I absolutely want to know what questions they have – so I make sure to answer them all.
I have signed up for two classes – both through Writers Digest.
The second class begins mid-June and is taught by Mark Spencer. It is an Advanced Novel Writing Course. You have to have 10,000 words written at the beginning of the course and the plan is to get you to 50,000 by the end of the 8-week session. Gulp.
My arse will need to be in a seat quite a bit.
I won this contest because I took a chance and entered. There were tons of great entries and I just got lucky that my friends love me enough to vote for me.
Web Presence – aka Platform
This is a word that sends most novice writers right back under the blankets. I don’t know a lot about all of this but I do have a blog, another blog, a twitter, a facebook, and a pinterest account. I also reserved www.TheAlligatorPurse.com so that no one can take it before I become wildly successful and try to snag it too late. I also reserved my full name as a url so that I can start working on my name as my brand.
For Shakespeare’s sake, keep a notebook with you or at least something you can write down your ideas on. Trust me on this one. You are going to have a moment of sheer brilliance at the most unexpected time and you are going to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly forget it. Then you are going to start noticing other people’s hair color and “poof”, your idea will be gone. Lost 4-evah. So write it down the minute you have it.
This is the most important thing – so it probably should have gone at the top – pretend it’s there okay?
You must own the fact that you are a writer. When you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do, you must answer confidently, “I am a writer.” Do not explain that you are not published. Do not explain that your mother loves your work. Dear heavens, please do not explain that. Do not explain that it’s really more of a hobby.
YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. period. You Write. Therefore. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. If you are not actually writing, remember the Arse in Seat axiom.
That is all for now. Because in a moment of extreme weakness, I signed up for a class and have 10,000 (quality) words due to a published author who will critique my work in two weeks.
I am going to keep my arse in this seat until I no longer feel like this…..
Disclaimer #1: It is important to note that the Arse in Seat Model does not work for all disciplines. For example, if you are hoping to compete in a marathon of more than mere words, you must get your arse out of the seat.
Disclaimer #2: This picture is also not me. I do not wear heels and I do not dress in all white – not even after Easter. And my floor is very honestly not that clean. Never will be.